Ahmaud Arbery Jury Selection: Notes on the podcast “The Breakdown” with Shaun King

Notes Podcast “The Breakdown”

  • “All of us have a right to be skeptical” about the trial of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery.
  • The three men are on trial in huge part because of the pressure that was brought to bear on Georgia, the governor, the AG, the GBI and others to make sure that they were arrested and made these people accountable.
  • “They (the state) had no plan to do that until we put the pressure on them.”
  • King notes the appointment of an outside prosecutor (a Republican) “I believe we have an ally in the prosecution…”
  • Over 1000 potential jurors were called.
  • There are a lot of factors that strike black people from jury pools before they even get to the process of being questioned at the courthouse.
  • The jury pool is selected with software that is supposed to make the process more random.  Note: The public has no access to that software or ability to judge the reliability and validity of that software.
  • African Americans are so “heavily policed, so heavily prosecuted” in Brunswick that even when Ahmaud Arbery was murdered, the system treated Ahmaud Arbery like the criminal.
  • Note: You can see this overpolicing in the body cam video of the police officer who questioned Ahmaud Arbery (several years ago) when he was doing nothing but sitting in his car listening to music.  The officers then used the fact that Arbery felt he was being harassed (which he was), and got angry about it, as an excuse for escalating the situation.  The officer escalated the situation while repeating over and over again that he wasn’t trying to escalate the situation.  When this officer testified in pre-trial hearings, he wore full body gear, and tried to make it seem that Arbery had acted irrationally.  I would have reacted the same way, but police would have never questioned me if I were sitting in my car listening to music. 
  • If you are caught up in the criminal justice system you are not even in the jury pool.
  • Also, it is much more difficult for African  Americans to commit to being on juries.  They are less likely to be able to take time off work, weather the economic problems caused by being away from work and family responsibilities.
  • The attorneys want to select people who say they don’t have a strong opinion about the case.
  • “If you live in Brunswick and you don’t have a strong opinion about this case, it tells me a whole lot about you.”
  • Note: One of the first questions asked by Sheffield (lawyer for Travis McMichael) is whether the potential jurors have a “negative” opinion of either of the three. 
  • “It’s going to be difficult to find somebody black, or white with any social conscience, who isn’t gravely concerned about this case.” 
  • Note: Again, Sheffield, for the defense attorneys, asks the jurors if they have supported “in any way” the social justice movement.  This is an extraordinarily broad question.  It implies that “the social justice movement” is a unified, single movement.  It also covers so many different issues and movements.  This reinforces King’s point.  If jurors who have “in any way” supported social justice movements are stricken from the jury, who do we have left?
  • If the trial lawyers are only trying to find people who are ambivalent.  “I’m concerned.”
  • Who doesn’t have an opinion about this case?
  • All it takes is one juror to hold out to create a hung jury.
  • The defense if giving jurors the Citizen’s arrest argument to hang their hats on. 
  • Note: After all the pressure that was put on the state of Georgia after the video was released, Brian Kamp signed a law banning citizen’s arrests.
  • But, the Citizen’s arrest law was in effect when the three men hunted down Arbery and killed him in the street.
  • Even under the law, the three men were “chasing him through a neighborhood with their guns out until they exhausted Ahmaud and then they murdered him.”

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